Is ACT Rooted?

There has been a lot of talk about how ACT is doomed at the next election. They have appalling Party Vote poll numbers but they always do in non-election years, and Helen Clark would be a shoo in to beat Rodney in Epsom. In fact this is probably a little unkind on Helen, as Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, Goofy or Keith Locke would probably beat Rodney.

Mathew Hooton talks about this and what it means in his NBR article. What he overlooks is that the reason for ACT’s unpopularity is not because of their policies, but because of their leader.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like Rodney but friends have to sometimes be a little frank with their opinions and only true friends will be truly honest. Rodney Hide has done his level best to alienate the voter base. He has been proven to be a hypocrite on spending. He was a little indiscrete with his new relationship with a woman 20 years younger than him, but at least he has married and made an honest woman of her now. Politicians? personal lives are often messy, but they are not usually played out in the media. Rodney has emerged from his Local Government portfolio with little credit, and a big negative for his poor implementation of the Super City part of his portfolio, the latest black mark being the fuss and bother over the Maori Statutory Board.

Private polling in Epsom shows that Rodney will lose heavily to John Banks, Colin Craig or Don Brash. He would lose to any National candidate no matter what National?s campaign manager tells the PM to say.

This lack of popularity is a vote against Rodney, not against ACT. Rodney is leading ACT to oblivion. It is still a party with substantial backers, and policies that resonate with many in New Zealand, especially with the National Party moving so far to the centre. It is easy to imagine the new leader of ACT saying that their bottom lines are abolition of the ETS, real cuts to the overpaid, bloated Wellington bureaucracy, and clear end to Treaty grievances. Additional policies of ending middle class welfare and interest free student loans would provide a nice contrast with the fuzzy, not really standing for anything much National Party.

The question for ACTs backers is do they let one man?s ego wreck a party they have spent nearly two decades and millions of their dollars building? Or do they cut him adrift and place a good politician in Epsom to save the seat and save ACT?

With the increasing likelihood that Winston Peters will stand in Epsom this issue is one that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. Meanwhile National too has decisions to make regarding Epsom.